WASHINGTON - Menu labeling and calorie counts is on the agenda of the new Congressional Regulatory Review Caucus, the National Journal reports. Brought together by Reps. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), the bipartisan caucus first met this week.
"This caucus will give us an opportunity to bring common sense back to the regulatory process, and to the extent that we can find ways to reduce the burden on business, we believe they will be more profitable, and when they become more profitable, they hire more people," said Scott.
On the table was the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 6174), introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX). NACS supports the legislation, which is a thoughtful approach to providing the necessary flexibility and understanding of convenience store foodservice operations.
David Fialkov, legislative counsel to NACS, testified that FDA€™s proposed menu-labeling regulation would pose particularly burdensome obligations of convenience stores.
"The authors of the menu-labeling law recognized the compliance burden for small businesses, so they created a small business exemption for entities with fewer than 20 locations," he stated. However, because many convenience store owners are franchisees of large companies, "they would be unable to take advantage of the exemption," Fialkov said.
Melissa Cummings of Domino's Pizza and the America Pizza Community also testified, noting that because most customers never visit a pizza place that offers delivery, making those establishments post menu boards would be a "heavy burden on pizza store owners. "This cost could be the difference between breaking even or posting a loss, or the decision to hire their next employee," she said.
Why You Should Care
The health-care law includes a provision that calls for a national, uniform nutrition-disclosure standard for foodservice establishments. Regulations implementing this provision, released in 2011, would create rigid requirements that pose an unreasonable burden on many businesses, particularly convenience stores. The proposed regulations would require chain restaurants, "similar retail food establishments," and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide specific nutritional information, including calorie-counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thru boards. Self-service items such as buffets and salad bars must contain caloric information "adjacent" to the item. Retailers would have to provide additional nutrition information in writing upon request.
H.R. 6174 codifies a less burdensome approach to menu labeling and includes language addressing the types of retail locations that are covered by federal menu-labeling requirements. Specifically, the legislation limits the provision in Section 4205 of the health-care law to establishments that derive 50% or more of their revenue from food that is intended for immediate consumption or prepared and processed on-site. Prepackaged food would not be considered in this equation.
For those convenience stores that would be covered by federal menu-labeling requirements, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act provides more flexibility with compliance. Retailers could select from several approaches in providing calorie information. For instance, pizza sellers could provide calories per slice or for the whole pizza. The legislation also would allow retailers more flexibility in providing calorie ranges as opposed to a specific number, which is often more difficult to define with made-to-order food.